But it was her youngest daughter, Pippa, who really caught the eye, the fashion police and the international Twitterati going wild with admiration for the Maid of Honour's ivory vintage-style dress. Pippa, who kept the four bridesmaids and two pageboys well marshalled, was but the hors d'oeuvre for the fashion banquet to come. There was an audible gasp from the congregation, which included David and Victoria Beckham, a fashion designer herself, singer Sir Elton John, comedian Rowan Atkinson, Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, film director Guy Ritchie, as well as European royalty, diplomats and politicians, when Catherine arrived at the abbey in a royal Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The best-kept secret of the wedding was finally unveiled: the dress. As with other royal wedding dresses, it is instantly iconic and historic, marking not just the character of the wearer but the tenor of the times.
Nor did Catherine let anyone down. The girl who has been criticized for being too conservatively High Street chose the doyenne of the fashion world, Sarah Burton of the British house Alexander McQueen, to speak for her, her dress elegant, understated, beautifully balancing tradition with modernity, quintessentially feminine. The bride had worked closely with Burton, who has a reputation for meticulous craftsmanship, and who also designed her sister's dress. The designer later said: 'It's been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress and I have enjoyed every moment of it.'
The dress, which echoed the gown worn by the Duchess of York – later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, on her wedding day in 1923, was complemented by the Cartier halo tiara which the Queen had loaned for the occasion. The tiara, made in 1936, was a gift of the then Duke of York – his life made famous by the Oscar winning movie The King's Speech – to his bride three weeks before he succeeded his brother as King. If Catherine was sending out a message, it was that she would support her husband through thick and thin, just as the new Queen Elizabeth had done when her stammering husband took his first tremulous steps as King George VI.
Excerpted from WILLIAM & CATHERINE: THEIR STORY by Andrew Morton, published by St. Martin's Press. Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Morton. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.